Unlike mobile camps, which tend to change locations a few times throughout the annual Great Wildebeest Migration, permanent camps attempt to identify a key area on the often unpredictable route and set up shop. There's an inherent risk in this strategy that's not exactly chasing the animals' weather-dependent movement patterns, however, these camps are making an educated guess where to find the action each year, and simultaneously, offering guests extra comfort as an added perk.
Here are our top six fixed picks throughout Kenya and Tanzania, in no particular order, for your Great Migration experience.
1. SINGITA SABORA TENTED CAMP
Vantage Point: This lavish explorers-style camp sits in the middle of the western central Serengeti National Park as part of the private Grumeti Reserve in northern Tanzania. Great Migration viewing is almost a given mid-May through June, plus cheetah, elephants, lions, leopards, and rhino also roam these seemingly endless plains, so this safari is guaranteed to be fruitful. “Private reserve” also means more flexibility, a variety of activities, and, well, privacy.
Get Cozy: Beautifully set on the Sabora Plains, this camp is quintessential luxury with nine tented suites featuring a private outdoor shower and bath. Each “room” also comes with a deck and day bed for game viewing straight from the lawn. Telescopes are a nice touch for easy spotting. The décor throughout is nothing short of opulent: picture rich reds, plush velvets, cut glass and Persian rugs, not to mention antique typewriters and other 1920s-inspired accoutrements, all of the highest quality. Additional, extra luxe amenities that you have access to in the main camp area include a spa, gym, swimming pool, wine cellar and art gallery. The look and feel of this place is in magical, over-the-top contrast to the rugged wilderness just outside your door. For maximum rest on hot summer nights, every tent is equipped with air conditioning.
Explore More: No question the Great Migration will steal the show, but guests may be equally impressed by the Environmental Education Centre, created to promote conservation efforts and educate locals within Tanzanian communities about protected areas and global environmental issues. Come meet the young students who hold the future of the Serengeti's Ecosystem in their hands.
2. LAMAI SERENGETI
Vantage Point: Near the border of Tanzania and Kenya, this warm, family-friendly lodge, built on the rocks of Kogakuria Kopje, features expansive views that stretch across the Serengeti into Masai Mara. Here, prime game viewing is July through October when the wildebeests should be making their way across the nearby Mara River.
Get Cozy: Understated, barefoot-luxury makes up the ambiance of this classic safari lodge. Natural light fills its 12 wide-open, stone and thatched roofed en suite rooms, perched on wooden decks. Each is fitted with fine furnishings, including day beds with a view. Tasteful, but down-to-earth, the simple elegance of this lodge connects you to the surrounding area without trying too hard. The open, airy layout lets in a soft breeze that adds to the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. If you need to beat the heat, there’s an amazing natural rock swimming pool.
Explore More: Game drives to look for wildlife is one thing, but you can get even closer to the wilderness—touch, feel and smell Africa up close—on a bush walk with a private guide. Lamai’s guides are reputed to be among the very best.
3. ROVING BUSHTOPS
Vantage Point: This semi-permanent camp will begin making its own annual circuit around the central and southern Serengeti in Tanzania starting in January 2019. Towed in by 4x4 vehicles, these food-truck-sized trailers are driven deep into the Seronera River Valley and unpacked to reveal lavish hotel suites right in the path of the migration. Wildebeests may come directly to you, or are traceable within an hour or so game drive away, between November and May.
Get Cozy: Its six modern suites, complete with solar-powered Korean lamps and Turkish carpets, are opened on three sides for guests to enjoy panoramic views from the comforts of their own king-sized bed. Put on a monogrammed robe and make requests (order a complementary massage or excellent food) from bed thanks to a friendly, 24-hour butler service, ready to anticipate guests' every need. All the given amenities of wild luxury come with each “room,” including electricity, running water and a flush toilet. We consider it a great option for the central Serengeti that falls snugly between Sabora Tented Camp and Lamai Serengeti in terms of price and luxury.
Explore More: Come for the wildebeest, stay for the big cats (cheetahs, leopards, lions), and other predators (hyenas), stalking the migrating herbivores, which your keen-eyed safari guide can point out from your own private vehicle or during game walks. Also, don't forget to look up, especially at night, when millions of stars seem to be on full-blast thanks to no nearby light pollution.
4. MARA PLAINS CAMP
Vantage Point: The most luxurious option in the Masai Mara, this camp is stationed in the Olare Orok Conservancy on the border of Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. Since the main Mara reserve has no cap on the number of visitors allowed per day, you’ll really notice the privacy of game drives on the concession. On the bend of the Ntiakitiak River, it’s positioned in one of the country’s richest regions for wildlife, where the river meets the forest and a wide-open plain, a backdrop for when the wildebeests pass through June to October.
Get Cozy: As one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, this kid-friendly camp makes comfort and luxury a priority, while maintaining respect for the environment. Every aspect is top-notch, from caring and attentive service to the seven spacious tents fitted with deep, comfy beds and charming leather furniture with ceiling fans and chandeliers. Copper bathtubs and private verandas only add to the refined experience. Beverly and Dereck Joubert, prize-winning wildlife photographers, filmmakers and founders of Great Plains Conversation, which owns this camp among others, offer guests the use of Swarovski binoculars and the highest quality professional camera and lenses during their stay.
Explore More: Think outside the jeep. Other ways to take in this rich landscape and its inhabitants include a walking tour, hot-air balloon flight, a horseback ride across the plains right from the stables, or a tour with a hired photographer. Can't choose? Sign up for them all!
5. MWIBA LODGE
Vantage Point: The scenic views start with the Arugusinyai River, but don't end there. Located in the southern Serengeti with close proximity to Tanzania's Ngorongoro Conservation Area, this luxury lodge offers breathtaking landscapes, far away from any other tourists. Natural springs and rocky kopjes characterize the conservancy, offering an intimate retreat unlike the rolling plains you’ll find elsewhere. You won’t be surrounded by plains game right outside your door, but the 20-minute drive to open savannah is worth the peaceful charm of this special place. December through March is calving season and makes for an inspiring day-trip!
Get Cozy: Built amidst the rocky boulders of the river gorge, this remote camp perfectly blends nature with glam. We fell in love with the natural beauty of the area’s huge boulders and euphorbia trees, which you won’t find in many other places. Its selection of 10 tented suites maximize natural textures with linens, suedes, and hardwoods, not to mention the communal slate-lined infinity pool. We were big fans of the delicious meals here, too, so bring your appetite!
Explore More: Here, your private safari is entirely customizable, so if you need a break from game drives, you can always visit one of the few remaining traditional local communities in Tanzania. The lodge works actively with the Hadza to ensure the longevity of their traditions. Accompany local community members in foraging for food, listen to storytellers recount ancestral tales, and perhaps learn about their weapons-making process for bows and arrows.
6. REKERO CAMP
Vantage Point: Positioned within the forest trees on Kenya’s Talek River—right in the heart of the Masai Mara National Reserve—this camp is at the center of all the action, especially for observing the wildebeest migration as they traverse the water crossing. In fact, sometimes the best viewing is from your tent as the camp was built at a favored spot for dramatic river crossings! Unfortunately, this can mean you'll be competing with an influx of tourists for the perfect photo. But sharing the Nat Geo-worthy shot is a small price to pay to be in the thick of it.
Get Cozy: Within each of the nine tents at this contemporary safari camp, there are cushy beds by night, and al fresco beds by day on private verandas that overlook the river. Hot water showers and flushing toilets are a nice, modern addition. More importantly, the guiding is exceptional here, and the camp itself was established by the Beaton family in conjunction with a local Maasai chief decades ago. Simple, but comfortable, it still carries the same spirit of traditional tented camps of generations past.
Explore More: If you need a time-out from sitting in a 4x4 for game drives, hop in the saddle for a wilderness horseback riding tour instead. Cultural visits are also of particular interest here. Many of the camp’s guides come from surrounding Maasai communities, and provide uniquely personal insight into their own culture.